A vial of swine flu and a decades old murder mystery make things chaotic under the dome. The mysteries are intriguing, the plotting sound and original, but the characters, some of which we have grown to love last season, all have become rather unlikable as forced mistrust and snarkiness replaced sound characterization in a show that once had a strong sense of character but now has plot convenience and ineptitude.
Let’s start with newcomer mystery child Melanie Cross. Now, last week, Melanie was revealed to be from 1988. This week, the mystery deepens as Norrie, Joe, Barbie, and Melanie find the place Melanie was killed. The exact spot where the Dome Four found the egg dome last season. We are treated to a flashback where we see Melanie, Junior’s mom, and Sam Verdreaux fing the egg trapped in a mysterious meteor in the year of our lord 1988. The crew got so freaked over the egg that they panic when Melanie grabbed it to protect it from the others. Where she was pushed over and killed by cracking her head against the meteor, whatever intelligence is controlling the dome learned about violence and betrayal.
A poignant moment yes, one that set up a cool mystery for the modern day players, it’s just a shame that all those players are now just disgruntled ciphers and contrarians. Joe is just there to pout while Norrie is a sarcastic shrew. What happened to the young couple who kissed and found love in the face of certain death last season? All Barbie did this episode was question everything Melanie said or did. The once analytical tough guy is now just a doubting Thomas. There was no thought to who these people involved in a gripping, otherworldly situation truly are. Remember when Joe was the young tech genius and Barbie did solider stuff. Yeah, me too, now, they just argue. Too bad, as Joe and Norrie were the most likable characters of last season, now they are exposition spouting observers.
While all this was going on, Julia, who was pissed at Barbie for even considering supporting “Big” Jim and Rebecca in their plan to cull some of Chester’s Mill weaker residents, has joined up with Sam. Now clearly, Sam is the killer and Julia, who used to be portrayed with a keen Lois Lane like reporter’s instinct, is totally falling for his false charm. Not buying it. In the same manner Julia figured out Barbie was a decent, heroic guy last season in the face of evidence to the contrary, her established character should see through Sam’s obvious façade. Another character betrayal. There is no reason to have a love triangle between Sam, Barbie, and Julia. It’s just noise.
Credit where it’s due, while Under the Dome is running counter to what was established for some older characters, Rebecca has become a nice shades of grey player. Her desire to cull the dome plays out like a true tragedy where a woman of science could become so calculating as to kill anyone she considers weak. In this episode, Rebecca got her hands on some swine flu and was tempted to distribute it to those she considered unworthy, which seemed to be anyone involved in the town prayer group. Rebecca took to the religious versus science thing a bit too far but could not go through with her plan. Her control over “Big” Jim was a bit head scratching as it wet against everything established last season for Jim to be used as a puppet so. She does stroke his ego, so there’s that, but Jim is kind of neutered this season.
Jim is now just another player instead of being the adversary, the other, the force of nature that is the greatest threat under the dome. In Stephen King’s novel, Jim was the worst humanity had to offer, and he was powerful. Now, he’s a sock puppet who does a little dance when his ego is stroked. The whole culling thing works as a story arc, a rather good one, but the Jim from last season would either do it or he wouldn’t, there is no vacillation in ”Big” Jim Rennie, and having him do so dilutes his adversarial spirit.
Speaking of diluted characters, Junior Rennie was once a total badass, but this week, he was tricked by a doddering barber. Junior freed Lyle from prison because the young Rennie believed that Lyle knew who murdered his beloved Angie. By the way, the murder of Angie should probably be everyone’s major concern, because who wants to be trapped with a serial killer under an impenetrable force field, but everyone kind of glosses over it to worry about relationships and internet connections. Bleehh!
Anyway, Junior hasn’t forgotten and follows Lyle to the barber’s home where Junior finds some postcards sent by Junior’s missing and presumed dead mom. The connection to Junior’s mom and the precognitive knowledge she possessed about the dome worked well and is one of the few things I look forward to as the show continues to hydroplane toward incomprehensiveness. Junior’s mom’s diary contains the identity of Angie’s killer, so Junior’s mission is clear as Lyle brained poor Junior and took off with the book.
To wrap up, Jim and Rebecca seem to have given up on the culling, Melanie is a time lost dome ghost, no one is acting like they are supposed to, there is a dome around the writers’ ability to write likable, three dimensional people and there has been nary a mention of Norrie and Joe’s connection to the dome, Dodee’s murder, or the death of Sheriff Linda. Bad form, domers. Maybe as more cards turn over there will be more to sink our teeth into. But as of now, the wheels are spinning. Badly.